By LAURA T. COFFEY
Until recently, it was difficult to shop for car insurance online. But that's beginning to change. It's now relatively easy to get quotes and, in some cases, start the process of purchasing a policy on the Internet. Consider these tips.
1. Educate yourself. Before you start comparison shopping online, do some research to determine what type of insurance best suits your needs and how much you're willing to spend on premiums and deductibles. Insure.com and the Insurance Information Institute (www.iii.org) are good sources of information.
2. Online doesn't always mean fast. Some Web sites give instant quotes, but others take as long as five days to provide results.
3. Prepare to sign on the dotted line. After you choose a carrier, you will have to buy directly from that carrier in most cases. A signature on paper is still a must.
4. Visit the sites of specific carriers. You can find good deals by checking quotes on sites such as Progressive.com, statefarm.com, Geico.com and Allstate.com. It can be time-consuming, though, because it takes about 15 minutes to fill out the necessary form on each site.
5. Or check out Web marketplaces. Insurance marketplaces allow you to fill out a single form and receive multiple quotes from different companies. The following marketplaces have partnerships with a number of carriers in many states, including Florida:
6. Youdecide.com. This site partners with 21 carriers across all 50 states. It features a personalized application form that yields comprehensive quotes, but those quotes aren't available instantly. Users must wait up to 48 hours for the results.
7. Insweb.com. This site works with more than 30 carriers in 49 states, and it features a Toolbox section with an "Auto Coverage Analyzer" that helps you determine how much coverage you need. It doesn't provide instant quotes; an agent contacts you three to five days after you provide your information.
8. Insureone.com. This site works with more than 60 carriers in 27 states. It provides instant quotes and allows you to purchase online.
9. Combine policies with one carrier. As you shop around on the Internet, remember that you can save money if you insure all your vehicles, including trailers and recreational vehicles, on a single policy. Your car premium also may go down if you buy homeowners' or life insurance from the same company.
10. Know where to turn. For help with specific insurance questions, contact the Florida Department of Insurance at (800) 342-2762 or the Insurance Information Institute, 110 William St., New York, N.Y. 10038 (212-346-5500).
-- Compiled by Laura T. Coffey.
Sources: SmartMoney magazine (www.smartmoney.com); and the Insurance Information Institute (www.iii.org)
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